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Due to unfortunate circumstances of family health and scheduling, not able to attend Knott's Scary Farm/Haunt this year likely, which disappoints me as I dearly love Scary Farm and keen on the new offerings, plus several 'new' returning mazes.

However, we did manage last night to get in a trip just thirty minutes down the road to Cedar Fair's Great America park for their Haunt's opening night. I will admit to being a little dubious of quality as it seemed they had rehashes of at least four former Knott's mazes and was expecting not the same level of design sophistication from some recent Scary Farms offerings and operation. In ways, I was both wrong to think that in some cases, and in some areas, was correct in assuming the experience might not be on the same level. For the start, food just not as good as Knott's and no way around that - they do have a fried chicken sit down restaurant (Maggie Brown's), but it was for pre-scare dinner extra ticket guests only, so no chance to compare the taste to Mrs. Knott's. Amusingly on the GA webpage, the photo is from Mrs. Knott's next to the restaurant description - side of cabbage and ham and Knott's boysenberry jam bottle lurking in the background, slice of boysenberry pie, etc. So instead dinner was pizza (greasy), what they termed garlic bread (pizza cheese on a vaguely garlickly piece of square crust), and chicken tenders basket for the parents who always like attending Haunt and keen to try this out as a alternate to Scary Farm this season. The food court area was practically deserted, but like all employees we interacted with, the people working the counters were very engaging and friendly and asking how we were doing, enthusiastic - so Cedar Fair really done a nice job with staff at this park, presumably on a normal operation basis as well.

The event opened with a Purge movie style announcement (Halloween Haunt now open, all legal rules against mayhem, murder, etc suspended for next five hours till midnight) followed by 2-3 representatives each of the different mazes and scare zones piling out of a Haunt-decorated party bus, basically, lining up, then doing the required crowd run-through before scattering to their various home corners of the park.

First off for review - the 'scare zones'. Knott's wins, to be blunt. Of course there is no Ghost Town or anything like it pre-existing to populate with themed monsters for the area, but the zones they did have were just largely entirely lackluster. The quick run-down:

The Gauntlet: Deep within the fog, screams of pure panic pierce the night, as never before in the history of man have such bizarre creatures been seen. You see, a strange traveling carnival has made The Gauntlet their home. The forces of darkness manifest themselves in a strange collection of freaks and oddities fueled by the haunting melodies of the nearby CarnEvil. There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide in this playground of terror.

Located near the circus maze obviously - there was nothing to look at, basically, apart from one large jack in the box prop and the maze facade, but these were the most engaged street monsters. I was not expecting much given don't find clowns existing just scary on their own merits, but great performances and actually talking to people made all the difference, continuous interaction. It had the most characters out of any of the scare zones too - but still that number easily under 15 people, maybe only 10. All were very good and on point however.
Grade: A in terms of talent, comparatively, especially when up against the rest of the park.

Underworld Alley: As night falls the Army of the Dead is awakened from their graves, looking to wreak havoc on those brave enough to enter their graveyard. These recently departed and tattered souls are lost in a world of transition and searching for the next soul to join them in a horrifying syndicate of wickedness known as Underworld Alley.


This area was near the Demon roller coaster and the food court zone - basically, 6-10 grave stone props, one statue maybe and lots of fog plopped down in a walkway, and one floral/plant arch with fog and sheets of fabric (never saw any actors in there). There were perhaps six actors in the area grand total and nothing much to do but walk back and forth along the 15 foot walkway and growl, lurch at people. Nothing to recommend it.
Grade: D.

Ironworx: A world of flesh and machine, of gears and steam offers a journey through the streets of steam punk battlefield influenced by a city of dead where blood is power.

Three actors (or possibly only two) along a 10-foot space (a bridge?) with fog and maybe two big set props at the 'entrance' from the back of the park, some random junk along sides of the zone. Extremely optimistic/misleading description.
Grade: F.

Now, on to the mazes! There was a lot to like in them but some low spots as well - we missed one (Zombie High) entirely due to just not seeing the entrance in any obvious place, no identifying signage along a path we were on like the rest, and when located it on the map it was near to closing and no desire to walk to the back of the park to find it when still had ones up front not yet seen.

Before I continue with specific maze reviews, a topic needs be addressed that was particularly prevalent at at least three of them - poor line management. In that, for each haunted walk-through, we never waited more than half an hour likely - but included in that time was several periods of five minutes where literally no one was let in, at every maze. Standing still, no movement. At Wax Museum and Toy Factory, particularly, the line sometimes didn't move for ten minutes at a time. This was due firstly, to a understandable cause - staggering groups of guests inside to prevent the dreaded walk through conga line, but sending sometimes groups of only two (which happened at all mazes) is borderline ridiculous and not at all efficient. Worse, though, was the 'front of line pass' and skeleton key treatment, where no one went in from either line until the attendant got radio confirmation based on some unknown factor that the maze was 'clear' and then the extra cost ticket members were sent in, again, in groups as small as two. These combined brought operation to a screeching halt. Extremely inefficient and frustrating. Here's hoping they fix that soon for the sake of future guests.

There was a rough start at first - at each of the four first walk-throughs went to, there was some kind of problem (injured performer meant one didn't open at all with event starting, lights went out on the entrance/sign for one at some point while we were inside and never turned back on, rope switchbacks placed impossible to get to the entrance once in the line at the third and not fixed, people having to duck under themselves and general confusion along with no ropes along part of line because they broke between 'lanes', and lights/power went out entirely in about three rooms of the fourth maze forcing a monster character to apologize and lead us to next lighted area).

Madame Marie's Massacre Manor: Money does not always buy happiness. For Madame Marie, this could not be more true. As Louisiana’s wealthiest heiress, Madame Marie has perfected the art of Voodooism. Enter her Manor with caution as there is nothing richer in her eyes than blood. Your visit in her lavish home will leave you breathless.


This was the first maze/walk through waiting for when the event began, and the one where it never opened due to a 'medical emergency' inside before any guests had gone in - security, park managers and paramedics going back and forth at a brisk pace, so hopefully the cast member involved was alright in the end and got needed aid. We came back to it at the end of the night, doubling back to see what we had missed, and it was well worth it. Great set design, on par with Trick Or Treat and Black Magic from Knott's - a dining room, entry hall with stairs going up, portrait corridor, a seance room, bedroom, outdoor garden, etc. Everything very lush and detailed, spooky overall but not many scares except for a drop-portrait hiding an actor, but many instances of flat out performing and interaction of very high quality, the actors delivering lines/scenes in a naturalistic way and talking to individual guests.
Grade: A.

Roadkill Roadhouse: This roadhouse is a very delicious restaurant loaded with ribs and steaks out of livestock. There are only rumors of disappearances occurring here. Make sure to sample everything…we use only the finest flesh!

Very familiar to those who saw Knott's Slaughterhouse during it's run, doubtless - but missing many crucial elements, like the exterior set up with restaurant front yard, truck, billboard, etc and much to the actual restaurant itself - entrance was just through a door in a plain white industrial style covered tent structure. Also missing was much performing like Knott's had, such as the 'cattle auction' scene with caged victim and auctioneer. Many props re-used or replicated, and expected scenes like freezer full of bodies, warehouse with 'tipping' crates and barrels that rolled towards guests, clanging loudly, lots of use of familiar masks from Knott's. Not an improvement over what had been at Scary Farm for 4-5 years, and decidedly less successful in certain aspects, though prop work throughout was decent in terms of corpses and body parts being cooked and skeletal remains and the like.
Grade: C. Unremarkable and nothing 'new'.

Wax Museum Chamber Of Horrors: The Chamber of Horrors Wax Museum has reopened, and for this limited time, Miss Lizzie invites you to examine her collection of some of the most feared villains, murderers, criminals and miscreants imaginable. So lifelike, so believable, so haunting, you might even think they're alive.

After the ridiculous wait and long periods of not moving, this walk-through was overall very good. Many detailed sets and figures in the 'museum' across three rough groups: classic horror characters, real life killers and western legends. The 'wax' figures (actually mannequins) all very charming, but there was no mystery at all which was a dummy and who the live characters were when approaching them, no matter how still they stood. Stand out live 'wax figures' included the Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Wyatt Earp, Lizzie Borden with her axe ready to go, Jack the Ripper, and others. After the traditional type sets and characters, a few twitching, robotic-framed mannequins led into the 'dangerous' area with big vats of wax and warning sirens and industrial equipment seeming to malfunction, where the figures supposedly would be made. Overall very-old school and charming walk through: it delivered what it promised at the outset very effectively, and no more. Enjoyable to experience.
Grade: A (even with the power outage noted earlier and three small rooms being pitch black due to malfunction and line issues).

CarnEvil: Hurry! Hurry! Step right up and don’t be shy! The most gruesome carnival is back in town. Get ready to face your worst childhood fears as demonic clowns and other freaks of nature terrify guests at every corner. CarnEvil is where they have turned the tables to make you the attraction!


Simply put, this was tired and lame. Lots of masks, sets look very worn, waiting area inside a humid and ratty 'circus tent' that looked more like fumigation set up for termites, missing actors in key spots that clearly were intended to have performers in place. If had to guess, I'd say all the sets and what little props there were had been used for ten years and only minimally cared for. Not impressed at all, despite the staff being energetic. Should be retired and a new 'circus'/evil clown themed walk through come up with, all new sets, so on. In addition, hearing the 'theme song' with lyrics over and over while waiting got quite annoying. Once, it might be a curious oddity, not so bad - but it's ham handed and obnoxious if exposed to it multiple times. Listen as you desire, following the grade.
Grade: D.


More maze reviews and photos of the evening yet to come! Thanks very much for reading.
 
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